Heggy’s is ending its year as the 2017 Small Business Award recipient — an honor it received at last year’s Business Alliance Awards luncheon.
Each year the award is given by the Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce to a local business that regularly supports the Alliance community and has less than 20 employees.
"We were surprised," said Chris Sell, one of the owners. "It meant a lot to us knowing that other business owners and other individuals recognized our hard work to provide quality products and service. This recognition has truly been an honor.
"Our employees were honored as well," he added. "The award is a true testament to their hard work and dedication."
Heggy’s is a family owned and operated company and a longtime staple of Alliance.
Ben Heggy started a candy company in Canton in the 1920s. He expanded the business into downtown Alliance in 1940.
Jack Sell ultimately bought the Alliance business in the mid 1940s and it has been in the Sell family ever since.
His son, Mike Sell, bought the business from his father in the 1970s. Mike also started another Heggy’s store in downtown Salem in 1983. With traffic patterns changing in downtown Alliance, he decided to move the Alliance store out of downtown to its current location on State Street in 1986.
Mike and Donna Sell have four sons and one daughter. With Mike Sell struggling with dementia over the past several years, three of his sons, Chris, Ryan and Patrick, decided to buy the Salem and Alliance locations from their parents in 2016, continuing the tradition for a third generation.
Chris oversees day-to-day operations, Patrick takes care of marketing and sales and Ryan handles financial and legal aspects.
When they won the award, the brothers were just through their first full year as owners of the business. "We’ve worked very hard to improve where we could while sticking to the traditions that has made a successful business for so many years," Chris said.
Chris grew up in Alliance, attending Regina Coeli and graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School before finishing his schooling at John Carroll University with a degree in business marketing. His brother Patrick earned a degree in accounting and finance from Miami University, while Ryan earned a degree in economics from Boston College.
Chris mentioned the important role that his family played in their success. "We learned the business from the ground up. We all started working in the business at a young age learning to wash dishes, peel potatoes, make ice cream and ship candy and nuts all over the country."
"Growing up in a family business taught us to not only be cognizant of costs but also to appreciate the customers and community that have supported us," he said.
Chris believes that the award is a good opportunity for Heggy’s to be recognized in the community for the hard work of their employees and the pride they have in what they do as well as the support that they give to the community.
"The award shows us the support of our community. As a business owner, this support is important to our continued success and we appreciate that very much," he said, adding that they have seen new faces in the store since receiving the award.
Chris said they will continue to work on improving the business, noting that upgrades in their sign, equipment, chairs and tables, and a new awning on the side of the building are all things they have done since taking over the business.
"Continuous improvement is important to reflect not only on how we operate our business but also how we represent our community," Chris said. He noted they will continue serving the same great tastes that customers have fallen in love with over many years.
Heggy’s not only sells quality chocolates and fresh roasted nuts but also provides breakfast, lunch and dinner at both stores.
Chris said it will be an honor to present the 2018 Small Business of the Year Award to another very deserving business, but he is most looking forward to getting another chance to say thank you to those who made Heggy’s last year’s recipient.